Around 65 million years ago, scientists said that an asteroid hit Earth, wreaked havoc on life in its wake, and created a massive depression called the Boltysh crater.
It is a 15-mile-wide formation in central Ukraine that may be as famous as the Chicxulub impact in Mexico, directly connected to the extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.
The Boltysh crater, which is buried over 1,000 feet of sediment, has been the topic of debate among scientists because of its unclear contribution to the cataclysmic period, which could have either happened before or after the Chicxulub impact.
Boltysh Crater Formed After the Chicxulub Impact
A study, entitled "The Boltysh impact structure: An early Danian impact event during recovery from the K-Pg mass extinction" published in Science Advances, suggests that the Boltysh crater may have formed 650,000 years later the Chicxulub impact.
The New York Times reported that the researchers, led by research associate Annemarie Pickersgill from the University of Glasgow, used argon-argon dating with rocks extracted from the crater and analyzed specimens from a geological layer in Montana reveals the dramatic transition brought by the Chicxulub impact.
Their study yielded a more refined sequence of the events that happened during the extinction of dinosaurs compared to previous studies. Contrary to the 2010 study in Geology, the recent study dated the Boltysh crater to a few thousand years before the Chicxulub.
Dr. Pickersgill said that the scientists who did the previous study were also her collaborators in the new study, and they were somewhat surprised by their findings. But after doing a double check, the data is still the same. Nonetheless, the scientists were happy to adapt the new hypothesis and came up with new interpretations.
Revised Age of Boltysh Crater Might Have Interfered the Recovery from Mass Extinction
For many years, scientists speculated that the Boltysh crater and the Chicxulub impact might have caused the extinction of dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period. However, the revised age reveals that it might not be a factor in the mass extinction, but it might have prevented its recovery.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Boltysh crater may have formed at the end of the Deccan Trap volcanism period, when volcanos around the world spewed large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
It was when the planet was still reeling from the effects of the Chicxulub impact, yet another hyperthermal event started that raised temperatures, which is likely caused by the Boltysh impact.
Although the rock that has caused the Chicxulub crater may be ten times smaller, it could have still created great damage on a global scale, which triggered a series of unfortunate events in a time when the planet was in a fragile state.
"A question we posed was, when [Earth] was already stressed, was it possible that a small impact could have pushed things over the edge for a hyperthermal?" says Pickersgill, quoted by the Smithsonian Magazine.
However, their findings do not offer a definite explanation because the jury is still out. The team advises more follow-up studies that might explain the role of the Boltysh crater in that apocalyptic event.